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Ultimate question: Why anything at all?by bohm2
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#91
Oct2611, 11:34 PM

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#92
Oct2711, 12:11 AM

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THANK YOU FOR POSTING THIS!!!! That was an extremely interesting read to say the least!! I've grappled with this question hard and long and this was a very invigorating read.
"Why is there Something rather than Nothing? If you don’t get dizzy, you really don’t get it." I like this quote, its very true! 


#93
Oct2711, 01:56 AM

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And when you say "first cause", it is not clear here whether you in fact mean efficient cause or final cause. Some arguments posit a first event (an efficient cause)  either a god chosing to act, or something like the first arbitrary swerve of an atom in Greek atomist philosopy. More sophisticated arguments, like Aristotle's, are based on final cause. Things start out as merely potential and then develop towards the actual. So Aristotle's "unmoved mover" was not a god of the "lighting the blue touch paper" variety but the concept of a final state (of actualised perfection) that draws the potential towards it, "inspiring it to develop". It is the outcome that causes the move. Or perhaps the better way of putting it, it is the limit on change. This is an ontology in which the problem is not about getting anything started, but finding the reason it eventually stops. A very different way of thinking about "why anything". 


#94
Oct2711, 04:12 AM

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Depending on one's view/definition of the evolution of our universe, some of the future possibilities that might seem apparent wrt certain views can be ruled out, rendered impossible, wrt certain views. In the views where the evolution of the universe is limited in some way, there's a limited number of possible continuations with each possibility having a positive (> 0) finite probability of occuring. The assumption that certain fundamental dynamical laws (maybe just one fundamental dynamic) are operational seems to suggest that the evolution of the universe will exhibit certain evident salient, and therefore predictable, characteristics. For example, wrt a local deterministic universe where the speed of change is limited by c, the prediction that the spatial configuration of the universe one nanosecond from a time, t, will not be appreciably different from the spatial configuration at t. Anyway, wrt our universe, the possibilities don't seem to be infinite, but instead seem to be quite limited  depending, as I mentioned, on the assumptions one starts with, and there don't seem to be an infinite number of reasonable alternatives from which to choose. But we're just considering the two possibilities, something and nothing. If, since we don't know why there's something rather than nothing, we give these two possibilites equal weight (which I think is the usual probabilistic approach), then each has a 1/2 probability. However, there is something rather than nothing. Which is all that we know, or can know, about the something vs nothing problem, since, by definitions, we can't experience nothingness. So, we can't even say that nothingness is a possiblity. Thus, the question does, imo, reduce to, "why/how our universe?". Wrt this I think that there are some cosmological models that extrapolate/speculate back to before the point of departure of the mainstream "big bang" cosmologies. 


#95
Oct2711, 04:19 AM

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A good thinker on the issue is the process philosopher Nicholas Rescher.
See "On explaining existence"  http://cla.calpoly.edu/~rgrazian/doc...gExistence.pdf Briefly, he outlines why efficient causebased explanations fail. Then argues for a "constraint of possibility" approach  what he calls the hylarchic principle. 


#96
Oct2711, 06:46 AM

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@ apeiron,
Thanks for the links and comments. Whatever you write wrt anything has always made me think and provided motivation to learn more. 


#97
Oct2711, 01:47 PM

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#98
Oct2711, 04:51 PM

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I will trust your assessment of it. What I've read of it so far seems to be in line with the my current mode of thinking on this. 


#99
Oct2811, 06:39 PM

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Specifically, I had trouble understanding his Nomological Approach for the major reason that he notes himself: "How is one to account for the protolaws themselves?". It seems like that approach is just passing the buck elsewhere and the problem remains? I kind of was sympathetic to the mathematical/probabilistic arguments quoted at start of this thread because they were simple but in all honestly I think MarcoD's criticism is extremely persuasive to me, especially since I lean towards treating mathematical objects as mental stuff. I'm guessing that someone who is more of a Platonist on mathematics (e.g. Tegmark’s mathematical universe hypothesis, come to mind) may be more persuaded by Rescher's arguments, I think? One author who takes a very Platonic approach in trying to answer this question is Rickles: The strategy I am advocating is that physics, in becoming more or less completely aligned to mathematics (in terms of content, at least), will be able to penetrate down the ladder of explanation to the very deepest rung of all: existence. We do not have the same kind of problem with the existence of mathematics. Mathematical statements are necessarily true in the sense that if they are true in one world (in the sense of modal logic) then they are true in all worlds. They are not created. They are not located in spacetime. The question of why is there something rather than nothing simply does not make sense if the somethings in question are mathematical. http://www.fqxi.org/data/essayconte...les_fqxi_2.pdf 


#100
Oct2811, 08:39 PM

P: 362

How about this take. Something implies that there was a chain of causes that resulted in that something and that means there is a reason for it to be true. But, Nothing is by definition has no cause so it is missing what can make it true.
But what was the initial cause is a question for physicists and not philosophers. 


#101
Oct2911, 05:25 PM

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#102
Oct2911, 05:54 PM

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#103
Oct2911, 06:27 PM

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Both laws and what they regulate develop jointly. Ultimately they are cut from the same cloth  the kind of absolute state of possibility that Peirce called vagueness. So reality looks mathematical, rather than reality is mathematical. There may be a correspondence between the two, but it is epistemic, not ontic. And thus the way that the world takes on mathematicallooking form (ie: develops some set of laws, regularities or constraints) might be entirely different to the way humans reconstruct those forms (via a logicodeductive process). And then the core of Rickles' argument is that he can imagine subtracting away all material objects so as to create an empty reality  a nothingness  but he can't imagine how to subtract away the existence of mathematical truths. They are always going to be there (well, somewhere) even in the absence of any thing. So a state of nothing is impossible as an actuality. But this has holes. If, as I argue, maths describes forms, and thus constraints, you don't subtract them away, you get rid of them by relaxing them. You remove by generalising (such as going from a geometric to a topological level of description). An empty world  in the sense of one with all its possible local degrees of freedom definitely removed, all its contingent facts erased  is in fact in a highly constrained state. Indeed, infinitely constrained. We would be talking about everything being completely limited and so nothing actually occuring. But that would leave this "empty" world now also completely full of contraint. Rickles' view is that it is trivial to subtract away local degrees of freedom, but impossible to subtract away mathematical forms. My argument is instead that the two aspects of existence are a yoyo balance, and any effort to remove one gives you more of the other. It is for this reason that there is always something rather than nothing. Relaxing constraints give you more degrees of freedom. Tightening constraints gives you less degrees of freedom. So again, it is not that subtracting one is trivial and the other impossible which forbids the existence of nothingness, but the reciprocal causal relationship that constraints and degrees of freedom have with each other. 


#104
Nov211, 05:23 PM

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"so long as we are willing to accept that reality is mathematical". That’s a major problem especially for those who view mathematics as mental objects or believe that reality transcends mathematics (MarcoD). I always assumed that qualia/consciousness defies mathematical/formal description so the existence of such stuff seems to seriously raise doubts about whether mathematics can fully describe reality. There are some, however, who argue that this isn’t a major stumbling block because we have no way of knowing "what is like to be a mathematical structure", so maybe certain mathematical structures could have the intrinsic properties we associate with qualia/consciousness? I’m not sure I buy this argument. Furthermore, maybe I’m misunderstanding but is Rickle’s point that there is no problem concerning Godel’s theorem, with respect to his position, valid? He seems to suggest all of the following: 1. Godel’s theorem does not tell us that there is any problem with mathematical truths per se; only that there is no algorithmic way of generating all such truths. We must distinguish truth and provability. 2. Furthermore, there’s a distinction between the tools (i.e. theories) we use to represent reality and the reality itself. 3. Godel’s incompleteness theorem applies to the former alone (theories). Indeed, this does impose a limitation on physics’ theoretical prowess in that if reality is a certain way (related to properties of arithmetic) then a complete account using any logicomathematical representation will prove to be impossible. This is an epistemic limitation rather than a limitation imposed on reality. But then he also suggests that for his argument to be valid one has to accept the view that: 4. Reality is mathematical. Wouldn’t that imply that there is no difference between the tools (i.e. theories) and reality so that Godel’s incompleteness theorem would apply? Maybe I'm mistaken. I have trouble with these types of arguments. 


#105
Nov711, 07:08 PM

P: 724

That is a nonquestion... like most others. It's been known for a while now that everything is out of our immediate reach  consciouness, matter, time, space, spacetime... even causality which is the BASIS for ALL our knowledge has been shaken by modern theories like quantum mechanics. Then neuroscientists keep pressing that being conscious is an automatic and autonomous process, much like being asleep and dreaming and perceiving your decisions after the fact. Push hard enough and you cannot but see that we don't really understand anything, anything at all. Nothing "has really changed since Socrates and his famous "I know that i know nothing" unless you want to fool yourself into the common delusion(which falls down on its face upon closer examination) 


#106
Nov711, 07:14 PM

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I will now give the explanation I thought of the last but one time this question was asked here, I think this happens roughly every three months, which is that if there were nothing there would be nothing to prevent there being something whereas if there is something there is something to prevent there being nothing.



#107
Nov711, 07:22 PM

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#108
Nov711, 07:40 PM

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"There is an experience of being"  that would be less questionable by the neuroscientists' lot than the "I" implied by Decartes which would seem a too loaded term to the current trend of approaching the consciousness topic. I have a different opinion than the general stance of neurology, but on the other hand, i don't disagree with their stance entirely. I just don't think it's all there is to consciousness at all. 


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